The 8 o’clock alarm which begins my day as a student in Perugia is not usually met with great excitement on my end. As my eyes blink open each morning, however, I remember that I have traded the beep of my iPhone for the pinging of 15th century church bells – a reminder of the historical roots which weave themselves down every street of this city. When they ring (often early or delayed by a few minutes, on “Italian time”), I imagine that they are begging me not to waste more time in bed when there is an entire city outside waiting to be explored.
Perhaps some of my favorite experiences throughout these first few weeks of studying abroad have been the free time I’ve spent wandering the streets of Perugia. Many people have asked me why I chose to study abroad in Perugia, and many of my friends had not recognized the name of this small, medieval city. Those who do automatically recall the case of Amanda Knox, a woman accused of murdering her roommate while studying abroad in Perugia (although I will not share the full story here, I encourage everyone to watch the 2016 Netflix documentary, “Amanda Knox,” and research the case further for more information). Of course, this is a narrative I would like to distance my study abroad experience from completely.
When I have had the opportunity to describe Perugia to my friends and family, I usually begin with the basics. Perugia is the capital of Umbria, a region in central Italy situated between the regions of Toscana (Tuscany), Marche, Abruzzo, and Lazio (the region in which Rome is located). Umbria – known as the “green heart of Italy” – is famous for its rolling hills and scattered mountaintops in the central basin of the Tiber River, but also for its cuisine. Local delicacies include fagiolina del Trasimeno, a type of bean grown mostly near Lake Trasimeno, and truffles (Umbra produces more black truffles than any other region in Italy). The wine-growing area of Montefalco produces two important wines for the region: Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino. Wine connoisseurs will know to look for the DOC or, even better, the DOCG labels – this indicates that the wine’s “appellation” (for example, “Montefalco Rosso,” or “Sagrantino,” or in France, “Champagne”) is protected by Italian law for its production within this unique area of the Umbria region.
I have had the distinct pleasure of tasting each of the products unique to the city of Perugia and the Umbria region, and more (my recommendation: try bruschetta con olio d’oliva e fagiolina del Trasimeno – a beans and toast combination that will blow your mind). There is perhaps no experience more special than time spent at any osteria, tasting an array of traditional foods that have been produced in similar methods for centuries. With just a few more weeks left of my time in Italy, only one thing is for certain: I cannot wait for the bells to ring tomorrow morning.